500 Million Vegetarians In India

Posted On
June 23, 2013
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Many people in western countries hold the misconception that vegetarians are “on the fringe” and that you have to eat meat to be healthy.  This flies in the face of reality.  India, the world’s second most populous country, with a population of over 1.2 billion has around 500 million vegetarians.

Walking into a typical McDonald’s or KFC restaurant can be a distasteful experience for a vegetarian and many avoid it. In 2013, India is even opening up an entirely non-meat McDonald’s 1. Vegetarianism is very much a mainstream way of life with 42 percent of Indian households eschewing meat, fish and eggs 2.

India contains more vegetarians than the rest of the world combined—roughly half a billion people. This is mostly driven by class and religious systems. Unlike Western religions where practitioners are claimed to hold ‘dominion’ over the animals, most religious paths in India hold vegetarianism as an ideal. The principal of ahimsa applies to animals—a term meaning to do no harm (literally: the avoidance of violence—himsa). Ahimsa encourages kindness and non-violence towards all living things including animals. It is closely connected with the notion that all kinds of violence produce negative karmic reactions.

Vegetarianism is so ingrained in Indian society that there are laws requiring all packaged products to be labeled with a mandatory mark showing if the product is vegetarian or non-vegetarian. In some regions the slaughter of cattle is prohibited, for instance if you slaughter a cow in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh you could be jailed for up to seven-years. Cows are revered in Hindu religious rituals and are allowed to roam free on the streets—scenes familiar to anyone who has visited India.

With so many vegetarians living in one country, and a culture that has embraced vegetarianism for centuries, India has the most sophisticated and ancient vegetarian cuisine of any country. Perfected over many generations, Indian cooking has become famous for its use of spices to exploit the flavour of vegetables and grains. The colour, taste and intrigue of Indian food is so diverse that you could spend many lifetimes eating your way through different Indian cookbooks.

Due to their commercial influence and grassroots reach, the meat industry has successfully inveigled their way into New Zealand’s outlook on diet but India demonstrates that vegetarianism is a mainstream diet option.


  1. McDonald’s vegetarian restaurant
  2. Food and Agriculture Organization for the United Nations
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  1. Erin Marie Meddaugh

    Actually while there are many vegetarians in India, even that country is mostly meat eaters. 500 million does sound like a lot until you realize there is over 2 billion people living there. While they have one of the highest amounts, China beating them in numbers but even China isn’t a vegetarian. So if you’re going to represent the Vegetarian people you should inform the people who come here with the opposite information as well because not doing so misrepresents the thought that most Indians are vegetarian when it isn’t the case.

  2. Regan Smith

    I will not eat anything remotely human – bad karma

  3. Pradeep Reddy

    I see so many comments where people are proud to be vegetarian. There is nothing wrong with any food choice. But, why be proud? No food choice is holier than another. To each their own. There is nothing wrong with eating meat. It is food. All food is given by God. All we have to be is thankful for the food.

  4. saman bandara

    i’m very proud to be a pure vegetarian and im sri lankan buddhists

  5. sanjeev krishan

    I know Hinduism well and as far as i know we are an animal there are a lot of animals that eat meat like dog, tiger if a tiger eats me that doesn’t mean that he is going to hell or heaven that’s just his nature. He is going to reincarnate we can eat vegetables and we can eat meat, if we don’t eat meat there will be a lot of animals on the earth, if you are a vegetarian then don’t go later and marry a meat eater.

  6. K.K.Bindal

    I Proud to be Indian,

    I Proud to be Pure Vegetarian,

    I don’t sit with Non-Veg. Peoples,
    who promote killing of lifes for theirself.

    We should not kill somebody who is innocent in our eyes, just for his/her self stomach happiness.

    Yes, the only person who can cut down his/her body for others meal without any reason…is allowed to eat NON-VEG.

  7. akshay h

    I am proud of being Indian & a vegetarian.

  8. Dushyant

    I’M vegetarian and also proud to be an Indian.

  9. Sharma g

    I think each vegetarian should try to change a non vegetarian. It’s not only a matter of one’s choice but it’s about entire mankind. We should also respect choices of other lovely species.

  10. nakul

    Glad to hear it that india is most friendly environment for animals, just its by majority of religion or its by majority of vegeteraion anyhow……am not saying anything about humans, animals or religion or about karma all I want to see just put a knife on the neck of ur loving ones and see in their eyes what you see a fear of death, sacrifice without doing anything now do same with the animals when you cut them see in their eyes what you see……think about it twice

  11. Priya

    Vegetarians are not doing enough to remind non vegetarians that killing and eating animals is causing heavy rain and heavy floods and sea level rising rapidly.
    1 bull weighs 500 lbs
    2 of them weigh 1000 lbs
    out of that 700 lbs is water as we all 70%.

    how many animals are killed in just one day?
    millions of animals are killed. 70% of the meat is water.

  12. Cristian

    The number of vegetarians around the world is increasing. The principal motive is not to kill.

    Himsa, in Sanskrit is harm others, incluiding animals, plants, but not relation with violence. Sometimes somebody can harm without violence, in a subtler way.

  13. James Larkin

    For me the logic is so very clear – killing is wrong and killing fellow animals to eat is totally disgusting. Our species kills and destroys almost everything in this world, believing itself to be unique and godlike. Such nonsense is often taught by religions.

    We do not need to eat meat and many bodies such as the United Nations have warned against it. We need to show compassion and understanding, live and let live, and strive for a more peaceful, happier world.

    Let us instead rid the land and oceans of pollution, preserve our drinking water and respect Mother Nature.

    Greed and arrogance will not bring us happiness.

  14. pappu

    It is sad how people are justifying meat eating I just can not understand how one can chew meat while knowing the animal must have tried hard not to get sacrificed. Just because animal can not speak can not give you right to slaughter otherwise non-vegetarian can very well eat dumb people as well. sick.

  15. Jayant sood

    Animal has soul and prana. as of humans. But the plants have only Samina Prana .killing of animals for just taste of tonque and Boby is crime. So don’t kill them be kind to them.be human.

  16. Imran

    I believe this war of ideoligies bw meat eaters and vegetarians needs to end.Each is good in its own way. Why judge someone else’s eating habits and try to blame it? Live your own life and be happy with it.Its only when vegetarians start attacking meat eaters and try to accuse them as barbaric, beastly and unhealthy do I remind them of how misinformed and mislead they are abt meat eaters. Same goes with ignorant meat eaters who think vegetarians dont get any proteins, are weak, and cant build muscle or something. Ignorance needs to end.

  17. Imran

    @R. Prasanna,I’m sorry but I’ve lost count of the no of times me and several of me friends had to floss our teeth after a vegetarian meal. Point is, if you get things stuck in bw your teeth doesn’t mean it isnt meant for you. Our teeth are specifically designed for both plant and animal consumption.The canines are meant for tearing flesh and the remaining flat edged ones for chewing on veggies. Almost all the animals in the animal kingdom who have canine teeth eat meat.
    Research has proved that although plants dont directly express any reactions to stress or pain, they release ethylene that indicates that the plant needs to increase cell growth or take other measures against the perceived stressor. Now this doesnt in any way indicate that plants feel pain but if you look at it that way in the halal method of slaughter, the animal feels no pain at all. Just read the research carried out by a German university on this site http://www.ummah.com/forum/showthread.php?344517-Halal-Slaughter!-Is-it-truly-painless , so the pain/torture argument is baseless.
    I would like to conclude by saying having excess meat is definitely not good for you and the “addiction” to meat has forced meat industries in the west to abandon traditional environment friendly organic methods of meat production to adopt inhamane ways of livestock rearing and slaughter.
    Eating the right kind of meat in the right amt is extremely healthy and beneficial and there can definately be no contradiction to this.
    As for compassion, I would like to quote Guru Nanak Ji who said,”A person’s diet has no connection with his spirituality or character as many vegetarian kings have been tyrants and many meat eaters have been saints”

  18. Cathy Sysel

    500,000 is still a small minority in India, the most vegetarian country. But, Srinivasa Prasad has an excellent point about the economical and environmental impacts of raising animals for consumption.

  19. R.Prasanna Venkatesh

    a common excuse that all the non-vegetarians give is plants also have lives its same as killing animals..first of all know the science plants do not have central nervous system, they cannot feel the pain..they feel the same pain as human being feel when they are intentionally killed..there is no god who asked ..someone i think imran talked about teeth..our teeth is purly designed to have vegeterain food..how many veggies you see using toothpicks after a meal.. eating plants is healthy as well as there is no torture…so now this looks very much like god has created plants for humans to consume as there is no feelings for plants.


    I belongs to a Brahmin community and follow strict Vegetarianism. Kindly don’t kill animals. They also have instincts and emotions. They are also made up of blood, bones like us. In fact its a sin to kill Animals. Don’t do it.
    Follow Vegetarianism. Have u ever seen in History or anywhere Vegetarians involving in Violence and Terror. Never. Because we are vegetarians and our Veggie diet does not incite our mind to take part in Violent activities. So, Kindly avoid Meat/ Beef consumption. You will live peacefully.

  21. amole

    we cant stop each n everyone to become vegeterin, but i seen some video footage of eating dogs, cats, horses such friendly intelligent animal are eaten by southeast Asian countries along with china.. ridiculous, insane monster kind of people.

  22. Vijay

    Tell me one thing , whenever we see any animal crying in pain before getting killed , do we feel sympathy or not ? well then thats the difference between Human being and animal

    There are more than 500 vegetarian dishes in the world , still human being want to eat another living creature to satisfy their taste buds…

    Nobody knows the cruelty seen in slaughter houses..those animals we eat cry in pain and don’t want to be killed..

    But anyways its my way of thinking and not against people eating non-veg

  23. Dev Baisoya

    Imran, firstly I will appreciate you for your comment because I find most comments from muslim youth just criticizing anything. Humans have responsibility to live on higher ethical planes and we can not look on nature for our moral guidance. If we look on nature, then it is right to live naked, to incest, to rape and to be cannibals. How can we guess that God created animals for our use. By the way plants are not sentient beings means that they don’t have developed nervous system to feel pain. I am not pure vegetarian but think that vegetarianism is evolutionary novel, even if we are not strict vegetarians naturally.

  24. Imran

    I respect vegetarians and I firmly believe ppl are entitled to their own lifestyle choices. But there is one thing which I hate abt vegetarians is that a lot of them are constantly trying to influence meat eaters from leaving meat. There is nothing wrong and unethical abt eating meat.
    Excess of anything is harmful but eating the right kind and amount of meat is extremely healthy. And as far as animal rights are concerned, all living beings including plants have life. Uprooting a plant and killing it is just as bad as killing an animal, so plz dont give us that BS of compassion. GOD created certain animals and plants for our consumption. If we dont eat them,our eco balance will get disrupted. There are so many omnivorous animals who eat both plants and animals,do you also think they are violating animal rights by eating another animal,when they can easily survive on plants.We humans are omnivores too, we can eat both plants and animals which explains why we have canine teeth, so why shouldn’t we eat them when they are meant for our consumption.
    A tiger is not violating human rights if he eats a human, he is just eating his meal, which is completely fine.

  25. Sunny

    Being vegetarian is not only healthy but also kind to animals. How would you like our species to be killed and fed to animals?

  26. jeetendra

    Have mercy for animals. They too feel the same pain as we humans do. Besides vegetarianism is best for every aspect of health. My family line have been vegetarians since thousands of years, and I am more healthier and stronger than my non veg friends.

  27. Oscar

    David, People who respect animals ARE holier than THOU. Why? Because we must be judged on how we treat other sentient beings. I’m sorry that you feel so inferior when in the presence of compassionate eaters. Kindness is not a “curse” you moron. GROW UP. The world must move on from perspectives like yours!

  28. David

    Vegetarianism, a useless taboo. Times are changing and they must change. This year, Dalits and Muslims led a protein riot in which around 1,500 Dalits were fed beef Biryani at the event in Hyderabad. It might have been provocative, but it sent a message: we will no longer submit to archaic taboos. The world must move on from meaningless badges of honour. India’s professed love for the bovine might fool a few soppy westerners, but the truth is that it is nothing more than an outdated sentimental balderdash. The country’s vegetarianism is a bane for both her people and her cattle. Selective vegetarianism in the West is fashionable. It is sanctimonious. It is holier-than-thou. It is yoga for dogs and granola bars. It is a choice. On the other hand, societally enforced vegetarianism, like in India, is a curse.

  29. amika

    Hi i’m amika and I want to tell you why my family are vegetarians. Who wants to kill animals when they are bringing life to earth? How would meat eaters like it if they were hunted down and eaten? We respect all life.

  30. Amogh

    Thank you so much for describing the vegetarianism in India in such a beautiful way. To all those people who think that vegetarian dishes are not delicious, try Indian food, you’ll fall in love with it. And try to spare a thought for animals, they too feel pain, lives of the animals in slaughterhouses is the worst thing imaginable. Please contribute to stop this madness. Thanks.

  31. Varun

    I’m from a family that is strict vegetarian from generations and i’m from India… I think i’m healthier than my meat eating friends.. and i think i’m just as strong as them.. But they think i’m weak..!

  32. kausar ansari

    hello! Everyone who follows to be vegetarian. I want to tell that i am pure vegetarian for 6 years. It was difficult for me to be vegetarian since i am from muslim family but i used to read a magazine in which i read many articles by Menka Gandhi on ‘animal welfare and vegetarianism.’ that articles had a great impression on me. So i chose to be vegetarian.

  33. swamiji

    yes our teeth formation is not for flesh eating where as for carnivarus animals you can see their canine teeth hence human beings chop it like a powder add lot of spice to avoid the dirty smell when cooking but still they relish it is nothing but practice/habit, elephant is vegetarian see it is strong, cows are vegetarians

  34. Srinivasa Prasad

    Top two reasons to be vegan:-

    1.an acre of land can feed 50 people whereas grass grown on such a stretch is needed by one cow which inturn can feed 4 people.

    2.By eating Non veg you will ingest ADRENALINE a stress hormone produced at time of death by animals in excess amount. This adrenaline is not at all good for health.

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